CPI and Touchlight Genetics

CPI has helped a UK-based biotechnology company develop synthetic DNA in a way that could bring genetic medicines to market at record speeds.

CPI engineer using health testing equipment

Genetic medicines to market at record speeds

The partnership could bring genetic medicines to market five times faster than traditional manufacturing methods.

New jobs and investment

The project has helped the company grow to over 100 employees and secure £147 million of private investment,

Genetic medicine (medical intervention based on DNA and/or RNA) is transforming healthcare by treating genetic disorders and producing mRNA vaccines for viruses like COVID-19. In future, mRNA vaccines could even be used as an effective treatment for cancer.

CPI, one of the seven High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres, worked with Touchlight Genetics in a partnership that could bring genetic medicines to market five times faster than traditional manufacturing methods.

Touchlight Genetics is a biotechnology company that specialises in producing synthetic DNA (dbDNA™) using innovative, cell-free methods. Demand for high-quality DNA has grown recently, thanks to its use in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and as a starting material in advanced therapies. However, the traditional way of manufacturing DNA (using E.coli fermentation) can take months and requires specialised expertise and intensive monitoring.

By working with CPI, Touchlight Genetics was able to develop a proof-of-concept platform for dbDNA™ that enabled the company to produce DNA at the speed, scale and purity required to support the growth of genetic medicine. The partnership has helped the company grow to over 100 employees and secure £147 million of private investment, which will allow it to create more jobs and to undertake research in biosynthetics.

CPI was able to use the knowledge it gained from the collaboration to help the UK government’s vaccine taskforce in its development of mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Juliana Haggerty is Head of CPI’s UK Centre of Excellence in Lipid NanoParticles. As CPI’s mRNA Integration Lead she played an important role in the mRNA Vaccine workstream of the UK COVID Vaccines Taskforce.

Juliana said: “For COVID-19 we used RNA technology but synthesised it in a lab and then injected it into the body. Essentially, it’s harnessing your body’s machinery to produce a protein of interest. For COVID-19, that was the spike protein that’s found on the surface of the coronavirus. So when your body sees that protein it’s able to train its immune response so when a real coronavirus enters your body it’s ready to fight it.”

CPI works with companies across industries including pharmaceuticals, food and agricultural technology, and energy storage. The centre builds teams that are tailored to its partners’ needs and provides support, facilities and guidance for companies and their innovations. This includes sharing business and funding advice as well as innovation capabilities and assets, helping to guide projects through to commercialisation.

The centre’s combination of innovation processes and scientific expertise enables its partners to get more products to market faster, and at a lower cost.

Graeme Cruickshank, CPI’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, said: “Our partnership with Touchlight is an example of how CPI can help create new therapies that will treat the diseases of tomorrow. Through our institutes, such as the UK Centre of Excellence in Lipid NanoParticles and RNA Centre of Excellence, our goal is to create the environment in the UK for the development and manufacturing of these therapies, for our university spin-outs, for our startups and for our large pharma manufacturers.”

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